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How-to Remove Car Paint Scratches

Updated on August 11, 2013

Remove Paint Scratches & Scuffs from Car Paint Like a Pro!

Minor scratches, scuffs and other paint marring is a fact of life for all car owners. However, don't despair. Removing minor paint damage from most automobiles is quick, easy and cheap.

This page explains how your vehicle's paint finish is constructed and shows how you can remove most surface scratches safely and easily using a scratch repair kit and your cordless drill. It takes very little time, it's safe, and you'll save a lot of money doing it yourself.

Clearcoat Paint Scratch
Clearcoat Paint Scratch

Assess the Paint Damage Properly

The first step is to determine if your car's paint scratch is fine or deep. There's a very easy test for this. Feel the scratch using your fingernail.

If you can not feel the scratch, or if you can just barely feel it but your fingernail does not catch, then you are in luck. This is a "fine scratch", and you will be able to repair using the process I'm about to describe.

If you are able to feel the scratch (e.g., your fingernail catches and makes a "snick" sound), or if you see the primer color or bare metal, then this is the wrong process. For more severe scratches, see my How-to Repair Paint Chips and Car Scratches lens.

Most Scratches Look Worse Than They Really Are

If your car gets keyed or scratched, don't panic. Most scratches in the clearcoat (top layer) look worse than they really are. Even bad key-jobs, like the one shown above, can be fixed.

If you can feel the scratch in the clearcoat finish, but your fingernail does not catch, that's a pretty good indication that the damage is minor and that it can be restored as good as new. Paint restoration is an easy process. You use 3000 grit wet and dry sandpaper to remove the damage, and then polish away the 3000 grit sanding scratches using paint polish.

Like magic, your scratch will be gone!

Has Your Car Ever Been Keyed or Scratched?

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The Proper Paint Scratch Removal Kit

This is the paint scratch removal kit I will be discussing and will demo in the video. I have used this kit several times with excellent results. There are other kits available that I will discuss later on.

3M Scratch Removal System
3M Scratch Removal System

Easy Car Scratch Removal Process

Have you ever sanded and refinished a piece of furniture or patched drywall? If so, this process will be a no-brainer for you.

There are three easy steps. In most cases, you can complete the job in less than an hour. Large area scratches may take a little longer.

1. Prepare the Paint Surface by cleaning and drying the repair area.

2. Sand away the scratch using 3000 grit sand paper.

3. Polish away the sanding scratches using a foam polishing pad and rubbing compound followed by a fine polish to restore full gloss.

The following video demonstrates the entire process.

3M Scratch Removal System Demo

If You Think Your Car's Paint Is Scratched... - Check out this mess!

Badly scratched Honda S2000
Badly scratched Honda S2000

As you can see in this photo, the surface scratches in this Honda S2000 are so bad that the paint finish looks dull and flat. All of this damage was removed using 3000 grit sand paper, 3M rubbing compound and a finishing polish.

Your Car's Clearcoat Finish is Very Forgiving - And that was a very good thing for this Honda!

Remember the scratched up fender above? Well, here it is after using the 3-step repair process.

Paint Scratch Repair Kits on Amazon

The 3M kit is the #1 selling scratch repair kit on Amazon. However, if you do not have a cordless drill, you can still get the job done by hand with the Quixx kit. It works well.

For large area repairs, like the Honda S2000 project car, you'll need to use the 3M 39053 Paint Restoration System.

Thanks for Stopping By

If you are a Google Plus user, I'm David Bynon on G+. Please follow me and I'll follow you back.

I write about car detailing on my auto detailing blog and I gripe and complain about healthcare reform and Medicare on my blog.

How does this simple process look to you? Does it sound scary to "sand the scratch away"? No worries... 3000 grit sand paper is very fine.

Please Sign My Guestbook - Let me know what you think, or feel free to ask a question.

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    • profile image

      Torrs13 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this!

    • LauraCarExpert profile image

      LauraCarExpert 4 years ago

      Getting car work done is always so expensive. Now that I can fix scratches myself I can save so much money. Thanks for the lens!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Great tips

    • autofanatic profile image

      autofanatic 4 years ago

      @bmcmlf: Fantastic tip! Yes, the high spots and edged do get thin. I know that all too well from past experiences. Thanks for stopping by!

    • bmcmlf profile image

      bmcmlf 4 years ago

      Great lens,another tip wile color sanding is to stay away from any ends and edges wile doing it. Like doors, trunk and trim. New vehicle paint usual comes with one color coat and a clear coat , that's it! And when the paint sets and drys, it become very thin around these points and you can easily burn though it. none the less, awesome lens and thanks for the easy reading.